Screaming & Screeching
Berkeley Parents Network >
Screaming & Screeching
Our 4 1/2-month-old has the most unusually ear-splitting scream. He's
been very loud since birth. Evidence for this: 1) my grandma who's 84
and has 7 great- grandkids says he has the loudest 'cry' she's ever
heard 2) in a classroom with about 25 other fussy babies, everyone
stopped and stared when my baby woke up crying/ screaming 3) last time
I was at the gym, the folks from childcare came to get me because they
couldn't calm him down. ''He sounds like he's in pain,'' said the
woman. I got there - he was fine. He was tired and fell right asleep.
OK, so he's got a VERY loud scream and while he is often smiley,
giggly and lots of fun to be around, he has certainly been a
challenging baby. He was colicky 'til 3 1/2 months. He often
cries/sreams upon waking and to get himself to sleep. And he just
seems like such an intense little guy. My husband and I have two
1) Could there be something wrong with him? Most likely he's just loud
and I'm, of course, hoping he gets less loud with time. (ha) But
again, he's so intense. He always checks out fine at the Dr's and
otherwise seems happy. We can't help but worry that he's got some kind
of a developmental, sensory or physical problem. Have any of you had
really loud 'screamers'? Have your babies had any issues later in
childhood? Have any of them turned into mellow kids? (My husband and I
were both 'easy' babies and mellow kids.)
2) We'd like some help for dealing with our baby when he's screaming.
Aside from wearing earplugs, which helps but which I can't do all day
long, what tips do you have for not 'losing it' a little? I sometimes
scream back - this can't been good for him. We worry that our negative
reaction to his screaming can't be good for him or for us
'bonding'. My husband also sometimes handles him a little more roughly
than he should. We'd both like to change our behavior. It's this
reaction to frustration and intense screaming that overwhelms us both
sometimes. Also, can you recommend any low-cost classes or counselors
or books that might help us with ideas for how to deal with our
somewhat 'challenging' baby. (remember, he's only 4 1/2 months - we
want to modify OUR behavior, not his) We really feel that we'd be much
better parents if we had an 'easier' baby - or at least one who didn't
seem like he was taking years off of our ability to hear. But we got
what we got, and we need some help.
By the way, there is no abuse or physical harm to our baby. My husband
just handles him a little rougher than either of us feels comfortable
Please only kind responses! Thanks!
Buying More Earplugs Tonight!
My sympathies. I had a shrieker/screamer too. I had people
come out of their houses to see what was going on, I had kind
strangers offer to help out, I had not-so-kind strangers give
me all kinds of stupid advice, my mom refused to even hold him,
I had one doctor say ''God, that's just awful. I don't know how
you can stand it.'' (Sheesh, what am I suppose to do, send him
back because I ''can't stand it''???) My husband also had a more
intense reaction to it, and I'll never forget watching him
roughly picking our 1 month old son up after a particularly
noisy diaper change, and, (he'd cringe now to remember this) my
husband yelling at him ''What the @#&@(#$) is the
problem???!!!''. Ickiness all around. These kids are INTENSE!
I still shudder when I think about that dark, dark time.
Beyond earplugs, what helped me personally was to
basically ''run a different tape'' that was kind to the both of
us in my head whenever he was screaming (which was anytime he
was awake)...I basically chanted over and over, ''You poor baby,
I know this isn't about me, something just doesn't feel good to
you does it, you have such strong lungs, I'll do what I can
buddy'' etc. I tried to be his ''sympathetic escort'' through
whatever this horrible journey was. I just took the mindset
that if this were a random person on the street, screaming like
this, I would have to presume that they were in serious pain,
and I'd endure the noise to see if I could help out.
When he was an infant, we took him to Catherine Henderson (now
on Santa Fe off Solano) for cranial-sacral work, which really
did amazing things for his comfort level. It did turn out that
our son had a sensory processing disorder, and within 2 months
of starting intensive treatment at about age 3, we had a
wonderfully mellow little boy. He's a complete joy to be with.
My son went through a phase of about 3 months, around 4 to 7
months, where he had the most amazing scream - if he did it in
public places, EVERYONE would stop and stare and I was sure all
the glass in the room would break. The very first time he did
it, I made up my mind to COMPLETELY ignore it. I never responded
verbally at all, neither told him to be quite nor screamed back.
I would try to take some action to calm him down, but he got no
unusual attention at all for this behavior. It was very hard to
enforce this decision, especially when he would scream in public
places, and everyone would look at me like ''why doesn't she do
something about her son?''. But after 3 or 4 months, he simply
stopped doing it, and has in fact been quite an early and good
talker (he is just over 2 now, speaking in sentences). It sounds
like you and your husband have already established a pattern of
positive reinforcement for this behavior--any unusual attention
at all is conceived of as positive for an infant--which may make
it a lot harder to reverse. But I'm sure it will get better once
eardrums finally recovered
Honey, what does this mean?
there is no abuse or physical harm to our baby. My husband just
handles him a little rougher than either of us feels comfortable
Why does your husband handle the baby more roughly than he is
comfortable with? I don't get it, please clarify!
As for the baby, he'll probably grow out of it IMO.
I totally empathise with you. I had a baby just like yours... and it
was 13 years ago.
I've found a text I wrote at the time: ''I can't stand it anymore, why
is she screaming
like that, it has to stop, I will leave...'' We tried everything, I
nursed for hours so she
wouldn't scream, we put the crib on the dryer, we drove her in the car
Babysitters called us because they couldn't take it when we went out for
and then... it stopped, probably gradually and I will always remember
entered her pre-school a little before 3 years of age: she had a big
smile and didn't
turn back to wave. We had given her enough unconditional love and she
for the world. Today she is a beautiful teenage girl with a huge heart,
and a happy
life. I know it's hard to see past those first months when you're in
the middle of it.
Hang on, it is likely there won't be anything wrong with your baby and
you will go
through this period, and you will mainly remember the good moments
I don't think there is anything wrong here. When people
say ''demanding baby'' this is what they are talking about. I
know it seems like it can't be true but it is.
I found that extended nursing was the only cure. When they cry,
you change the diaper and nurse 'em. I did it untill they were
3 years old and I am a wreck. I would probably be a wreck
anyway and I didn't know what else to do so there you have it.
Also want to give you this jewel of a platitude: ''When you
think you can't stand it anymore, it changes.'' That from my
aged aunt who also said ''Just when you think you are going to
pinch their heads off, they do something cute.'
Hopefully, you will have enough cute stuff to balance the bad.
My back used to ache when they yelled. But, I'm tellin' ya; put
the boob in the mouth & snuggle in and it gets sweet real fast.
Someone who lived through the screaming baby years.
Also, wanted to mention that if you hold your baby really close
to you, hold his neck/head up, hold him tight & listen to music
like George Clintin, Funkadelic, something with a really strong
beat? And bounce, just bounce. It gets all the bubbles up and
they love it.
Yelling back doesn't work.
run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore (or your computer) and get
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. He has a host of
soothing a baby. and the book comes in DVD also, which helps a lot if
have time to read :-) I'm telling you , I buy this for every new mom I
know and they
all call to thank me--my 1st cousin said ''It taught me how to care for
my baby'' . I
used it after my 2nd baby and really wish I'd had it with the first.
Good luck, you'll
get through this!
mom of 2 happy kids!
My daughter was also absolutely the loudest screamer anyone had
ever heard. An ear-splitting cry when she was upset. Like your
son, she was an intense baby, although generally good-spirited
and smiley and happy, too. Her loudness lasted from about 1
month of age until 11 months old, and then the volume of her
cries just melted away. I don't know why, but now she's just a
normal volume girl. (She's two.) I actually think that her
extremely loud cry melted away right about the time she had her
first serious cold. Her voice got hoarse and then the ear-
splitting just never came back. SO, my advice to you... just
wait it out. I bet he'll outgrown it, and then you and your
husband will just laugh about it. As for dealing with it at
the present time, we found that bringing our daughter outside
or to the window when she was screaming helped to jolt her out
of it and she often quieted down. In the nighttime, we found
that bringing her to see a lighted candle also seemed to work
magic. I think just seeing the light is suddenly captivating
and snaps them out of the screaming rut they're stuck in. Good
luck! Hang in there!
also used a lot of ear plugs
I had to respond to your post. I have a four year old daughter
who sounds a lot like your son. She has always had an
exceptionally shrill, loud, piercing voice. As a baby her
screams were always the ones to draw attention and, even now as
a preschooler her voice is loud, and if she is upset, shrill
and piercing. She's an intense little person, although
delightful, smart, amusing and often sweet. I wouldn't trade
her for anything, but oh if I could only dull down her voice a
bit. Hopefully with a boy you won't have the shrill problem.
I don't really know what to say to help. I am from a quiet,
soft-spoken family, relish silence and am deeply effected by
too much noise. It can get on my every last nerve - especially
now that I also have a fairly loud two year old boy as well,
nothing compared to his sister, but no shrinking violet and
getting louder to compete with his sister. For me it has been
and continues to be the single hardest part of parenting. The
noise, if it just wasn't for the noise I could be a perfect
parent, I swear. As it is, it is the one thing that makes me
lose my temper - more often than I would like. All I can offer
as advice is to, first of all not worry - it sounds like you
already know it's just the way he is. Secondly, get silence
where you can - relish it, savor it, bathe in it. Turn up the
music really loud in the car when you have too. Try to frame
it positively - they are sure to be confident, exuberent, fun,
lively people. I also watch my daughter when she is really
emotional - happy, silly, upset, angry, and she really can't
help it. Even when I try and work with her on modulating her
voice and tone, she has a really hard time controlling it when
she's upset. When I see her trying, it helps me feel less
angry about it, because it does make me angry sometimes. I
also try to look at it as my karmic test in some way. The
universe seems to know where we are most in need of a challenge
and throw that at us with our kids - here, you find too much
noise difficult? take these two kids and work it out. Deep
breathing helps. Holding my crying child with my ears ringing
has certainly been one of my greatest tests. When they're old
enough I swear I'm going to run off to a Zen monastery for a
month long silent retreat. Good luck!
Hi ''Buying More Earplugs,''
We had a screamer (colicky too) who is now going on four years
old. I wore earplugs with those plastic strings attached
around my neck for over five months. Some days I frantically
search for them (great wardrobe accessory). We were a little
rough too due to sleep deprivation, walking into doors & the
like. There was nothing physically wrong with him that we/the
pediatrician could tell besides mild gas. I did take him to a
chiro. & tried everything--he enjoyed that & baby yoga. I
brewed a weak version of chamomile tea which calmed & soothed
and stocked up by the case in gripe water (much cheaper online).
He's fine now and a very spirited child. Genes on both sides
contribute to this behaviour, we're pretty calm & also wondered
how we got what we got. Hang in there and check out Helen
Neville's ''Spirited Child'' classes at Bananas as well as Meg
Zweiback's classes & keep her number handy --their books are
helpful. Banana classes very reasonable & Meg's advice was
very calming & effective at the time (there's light at the end
of the tunnel).
My husband couldn't handle fifteen minutes with the screamer
which resulted in me doing most of the work and burning myself
out. Make sure you take care of yourself and go away for a
much needed vacation; I went on a women's retreat which helped
but one wkend is not long enough. Word of advice: Don't
forget to always, always wear your IPOD, it really helps when
you're stressed out & look into audio downloads. I listened to
quite a few books and it helped me to get out of my pyjamas on
a daily basis. I know exactly how you feel, I couldn't go to
many places & was worn out mentally & physically (my sweet
little angel didn't sleep through the night for 18 months)
phew! I can't believe I made it & you will too.
Recovering 1st time mom.
I also had an extremely loud baby. ''My what a loud baby,''
someone once said. I always felt incredibly embarassed at the
mother's group because my baby had two stages: nursing and
crying. It started to get better about six months, though there
were often loud tantrums until about 3. The good thing was my
baby turned into an early talker and could start complaining in
words (though it was kind of strange that the kind of things you
expect in toddlers who don't have words would come up in yelling
words). She was intense, but appropriate in preschool, and
bonded strongly with several of the teachers. Now, years later,
my child is an emotionally intense, smart, creative, empathetic,
What helped: nursing (whatever was the cause of the lack of
balance, nursing helped settle her), moving about in the world --
the screaming was most at home, or in other people's homes,
help from friends, the baby swing, time off (babysitting didn't
work until 10 months, but then it was a lifesaver.) I was also
advised that if the screaming didn't stop to put her down for 10
minutes and go into another room. My husband and I would also
spell each other, so each got some time ''off.'' I think being as
gentle as possible with a hard baby is helpful, because they are
so unsettled that they need more external help to calm down.
In my experience, we didn't end up with a mellow child, but we
have a fun, affectionate child.
I am responding to the parents who are concerned about
their ''screaming'' infant. I can suggest that you take your
child to see our family's chiropractors to have some cranial
sacral work done. There may be some tension in your baby's
skull or spine from normal growth that needs to be alleviated.
I have found this type of care to help a lot with my son. He
has had chiropractic adjustments since his birth and he's a
relatively calm boy at six years. He also never had a serious
ear infection. The one time that he complained of ears hurting,
it was corrected after a couple of adjustments. Also, they
specialize in child healthcare and I trust them with all health
concerns for my family.
Please call Drs. Aaron Rosselle and Eileen Karpfinger at (510)
444-4443 to speak with them about your child's issue. They are
in Oakland at the Upaya Center across from the Grand Lake
I was wondering if anyone has advise on dealing with an 11 mos old girl that loves
to scream or screech.( It's extremely high pitched and hurts the ears.) She does this
for various reason, wanting something, she's eating, upset, just because... It's
driving us crazy! I saw some old posts but was wondering if anyone has any new
Our daughter does this too. We try to ignore it. We definitely
don't give her whatever it is that she wants when she's doing
the screeching. I tried screeching back, but that didn't work.
I'm preparing myself for years of this...and then puberty, where
she'll probably just start ignoring us.
Mom to screecher
My 13 month old son has developed a blood-curdling scream, which
he uses with great frequency. It is sometimes but not always a
sign of being upset- sometimes he just seems to be trying it out.
The problem is, I really cannot stand it anymore. In the car, I
feel like it's actually dangerous, as it startles me, and I'm
afraid I'll have an accident. The rest of the time, I'm just
walking around with a permanent headache, and I feel like I'm
constantly on edge.
I've tried just telling him ''no,'' but it only works sometimes,
and in the interest of not overusing the word/ concept, I try to
reserve it for things that are actually dangerous, which the
screaming is not, except in the car.
I've read through the archives, and based on what's there I'll
add: he is not yet speaking; we're working on sign language and
he has a few signs; and I'm trying hard to provide him with words
for what he wants or needs. But my question is: is there a way
to STOP, or at least greatly decrease this behavior? I'm really
afraid I'm going to snap. Thanks for ANY advice you may have!
My toddler twins sometimes scream for seemingly no reason
(though sometimes it's clear they're doing it to amuse
themselves). What I do is start singing, in a calm, not-too-
loud way. Then they stop screaming.
I have a daughter who was an incredible screamer until she
started talking. What worked for us was a little re-training.
It took a while, but if she screamed while we were at home, I
told her ''its okay to scream outside, but not inside the house.''
And I'd pick her up and put her outside in the backyard (where
it was safe) for 2 minutes. If it was raining or dark, I'd tell
her ''its okay to scream in your crib with the door closed, so you
don't hurt mommy's ears'' and I'd bring her upstairs and put her
in her crib with the door closed. If she screamed in the car,
AND if there was a safe place to pull over (not on the freeway,
but maybe pull off at an exit), I'd pull the car over and tell
her that I was getting out of the car until she was done
screaming. Then I'd park and stand right outside of the car for
a minute or two. These all worked because she didn't like when I
did them. Once she started talking, the screaming also
diminished. But I feel for you!
- mama of a screamer
It may not help you much to hear this, but this screaming phase
will not last forever. My son's screaming peaked around that
age, because he wanted to communicate but was not able to yet.
Soon after that, he learned to talk and the screaming went way
down. Hang in there! In the meantime, I'd probably leave the
room whenever he screams, as a form of negative reinforcement as
well as a way to preserve your hearing!
Mother of former screamer
Our son got in touch with his screaming voice about that time too. At 17 months he
still loves doing it. I think it's part of the Great Toddler Experiment. He also has
discovered echos and then he really lets it out. Not sure how to get him to stop. We try
and talk to our son using soft voices and try not to react to his screaming. He still does
it but usually will stop after one or two times when he gets no reaction. He's now into
whispering and thinks it's quite funny. Good luck.
Yes, practice the response of ignoring him immediately when he
screams (after you ascertain that he isn't actually in need of
something, and is just doing it to get hiw way). Without negative
OR positive reinforcement, he will soon discover this is a failed
method to manipulate you to do his bidding, and he will stop,
because it doesn't get him anything he wants.
You need to be consistent with this method, and everyone who
cares for him must do it as well. Just get him safe when he is
screaming, and walk away and do something else. Lock yourself in
the bathroom if need be.
And buy some earplugs to help yourself be less tense when he is
This will probably take about two weeks to cure him of, if you
are totally consistent.
Do it! Save your sanity!
Our daughter did the screaming too right about the same age.
Not only did it startle (and annoy!) mom and dad, but it
managed to get everyone else on edge from restaurants to Trader
Joes. Happily, she outgrew it in about 2 months. I read
somewhere to ignore the scream and instead lean in calmly and
say ''I'm listening to you'' so that the child knows they don't
have to scream to get your attention. So who knows if this was
why she stopped...or if it was just meant to be a phase. In any
case rest easy, it won't last forever!
My 11 months old baby girl screams all the time - no tears-
just screams. She doesn't want to be left alone for a second.
She screams when she's dry, fed, just woke up. She wants us to
pick her up, and she doesn't stop screaming if we don't. The
only way I can do anything around the house is if I let her
watch her baby einstein videos. I feel bad plopping her in
front of the TV - but that is the only way she will stop
screaming. She's only interested in toys if I am playing with
her. She wants to see me at all times,and preferably be carried
by me at all times. I am frustrated because I can't do that for
her, and her screaming really disturbs me, and makes me edgy. I
tried to tell her no - mommy can't pick you up now. That
usually works for 2 minutes. She is extremely demanding, and
insistant. HELP !
I think most babies want to be held most of the time. I have two, one very high-
needs and the other easy-going, and both of them acted the same way you describe
your child as behaving. It continued well after they could walk. I tried to carry
as much as I could, in my arms, a sling, or a small backpack. (Wearing a wool hat
helped with the hair-pulling.) Some housework was easy to include them in like
folding laundry while sitting together on the floor or flapping the sheets over them
as I made the beds. Cooking and dishes required the backpack. I tried to do as
much kitchen work as I could when they slept. I found that if I responded to their
requests to be held when they wanted, they were able to be set down later and play
or toddle around nearby. I know how frustrating it can be, but this phase will pass.
I know the story all too well. My baby, now turning 4, was just like that for the
first year of her life. Would NOT be set down and demanded constant attention. It
drove me nuts, and I didn't get a lot done. But I did toughen up to a certain degree
and at times just set her in a safe place with safe toys, turned up the loud classical
music and cooked dinner with a wailing cacophany. I don't really have any advice
here, but to say my child is now a very active creative independent sociable girl. But
still highy values mommy time, and I appreciate that.
My 8 mo. old son is constantly screeching whenever he gets the
slightest bit frustrated or tired. He seems to get frustrated
very easily - he isn't crawling yet and that may be part of it,
but he will play for a few minutes and then immediately start in
on the screeching again. It is ear piercing and I am getting to
the end of my rope (luckily when I do, my husband takes over
and I go outside for a while). I don't know if it is because he
is teething or just because this is a stage that he is going
through. People have said he is just testing out his voice, but
it is more than that. He is clearly unhappy when he is doing
it. I hate the fact that he is unhappy so much of the time but
frankly I just want it to stop. Should I ignore it? Tell him
no? I don't know how to work with behavioral issues with a baby
At 8 months, my friend's baby began to screech and they had to
stop taking him out in public. I felt smug because my baby did
not screech. My baby is a month younger than my friend's. Mine
started screeching exactly a month later (also at 8 months). We
had to stop eating out when a sudden piercing screech caused a
waiter to drop a tray of food!. Both babies screeched for a few
weeks and then stopped. I would put my baby down if I was
holding him when he screeched and tell him I don't like
screeching. But really I think there is just something about
being 8 months that makes them screech. It doesn't last long, so
just be patient and it will stop!
I had the same experience with my daughter who is now 2 years
old. The only advice that made me feel better was my mom's. She
kept telling me that was the sign of intelligent kid. From then
on, I realized that she was just frustrated because she couldn't
do the things she wanted to do because of physical limitation. I
started to want to know what was going on in her mind,
appreciated how much she understood in that young age and amazed
how much creativity she had, suddenly the screeching did not
bother me as much (there were time when I felt like my head was
going to blow up, but it's not as often). I think you will have
an easier time once your son can walk and do things himself. My
daughter still does it sometimes (it's getting louder now
because she can scream) when she can't open the lid to her cup
or unzip her jacket. I do have fun watching her do and plan
things. She is a busy one, her mind is always going. I always
say to myself it's better to have a kid who is smart and active,
even it gets difficult sometimes.
One of my six-month olds is a screecher, and I have found
that it is usually always related to being tired or hungry. He
gets so involved in play that usual cues to feed him or put
him down go unnoticed by me until he starts his
screeching. In most cases, I will put him to the breast and
then lay him on his back in the crib so he can watch his
Winnie the Pooh mobile and grab his feet or suck his
thumb. Then I keep my eye on him until he seems ready to
go down for a nap ( or until more screeching lets me know
he's ready). Of course, this is only what works for me and
my kid, but once I related the screeching to him being tired/
hungry, it was much easier to deal with, and it helped me
learn that he needed more sleep during the day than he had
been getting. Hope this helps.
Our 9-month-old has the most mind-numbing scream, all thinking
stops when she does it - which she does. When we don't feed her
fast enough, when she's tired of the food on her tray, when she
wants to get down.
She does it in other situations, too, but somehow the mealtime
thing (or in the car) is simply unbearable, and our other child
claps her hands over her ears and sometimes starts crying. We
find it almost impossible to function when she does this, and
it's starting to ruin more meals than not.
She's not truly upset, it's an attention scream.
We've tried feeding her first, then letting her play while we
eat, but then she cries all through the meal, essentially ruining
the meal that way.
A baby or toddler with a piercing scream can be extremely
stressful. I would suggest you try Baby Signs with her (simple
sign language). It is very easy to learn a few basic signs and
teach them to your baby. My daughter learned the sign for ''more''
almost immediately. When your baby has learned a few signs, try
to NOT respond to the screaming. Say ''tell me what you want...do
you want more?'' and do the appropriate sign. Your baby is trying
to communicate with you, and has found the screaming to be
effective. If she has another means of communication that is
more effective, it will probably help stop the screaming. She
can understand far more than she can communicate and it is
frustrationg for her. You can look up ''Baby Signs'' on the
internet, or find books locally.
Your daughter sounds like ours. She had a powerful set of lungs
which she would put to good use whenever displeased, but
especially at meal times. We began saying to her what we thought
she must mean. For example, a shriek at meals would be met from
us by ''Do you want more food? Ask for more.'' Or even just
''More?'' She caught on amazingly quickly, and guess what? Her
first word was ''More.'' If the problem is pain--''Ouch, that
hurts!'' You get the idea. Once she became verbal, a lot of the
shrieking went away (although you can imagine the volume of
tantrums when she went through those phases). Walking away and
ignoring the shrieks can also encourage her to ''use her words.''
Mother of a future opera singer
My daughter did the same thing. It got significantly better when
we started turning her high chair around everytime she
screamed. I would just say 'No Screaming', turn her chair
around, and not turn it back until she stopped screaming. Then
I gave her all the attention she wanted once she stopped. It
also helped to explain to my other children that she was trying
to get attention and that we should do our best to ignore her
when she screams. Good luck!
We taught our daughter baby sign language and I imagine it might
help your child too. I felt like it created an amazing
connection between us- that she understood at about 10 months
that she could tell us what she wanted/needed and we could try
to help her. At 9 months it's a great time to start. At first
our daughter didn't catch on but her very first lick of ice
cream, accompanied by the ''more'' sign sure taught her how to
sign ''more'' and then the rest caught on. Youcan make up lots of
your own signs (we made some up for binky, music, bottle, etc)
or get some from the book- Baby Signs. By the way, teaching her
sign launguage did not affect her language aquisition at all.
She was an early talker.
this page was last updated: Nov 18, 2008
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network